Sunday, October 12, 2014

Levels of Spiritual receptivity

Luke 7:28-31 I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John. 31 “To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like?"

How often have you been in an area where there is poor phone reception? Usually mountains or a low lying area can be the culprits. Othertimes it can be the result of the phone company not covering that particular area. An average cellphone will have an indicator that will tell you how many bars of signal you have. In the Bible we see different levels of spiritual receptivity. In some cases we see people whom we would think had "five bars" of service not respond to Jesus. In other cases we those who (on the surface) seem the least likely to respond exhibit faith in the Master. Luke 7:28-50 gives us a quick overview of the typical patterns we see in the realm of spiritual receptivity. 

Main point of application:
Today's point of application for this post will be: "Faith receives the things of God and love measures the level of reception." Let us look at the people Jesus addresses to not only determine their level of spiritual receptivity, but our own.

Self-sufficient people won't receive. Luke 7:28-36
Jesus makes reference to the ministry of John the Baptist, and how some had responded and others had rejected. He then tells a curious little parable in conjunction with His point. Like children playing in the streets of an average Jewish town, so can be either the generation of Jesus' day or our own. Children loved to mimic the two most public ceremonies that they witnessed adults performing: weddings and funerals. As the children would go through a given set of streets, they would play a little flute and invite other children to join in the game. The object was for one group to start the scene (wedding or funeral) and the second group to finish it. Jesus used this recognizable imagery to point out the fact that John the Baptist was like those who played "funeral" and Jesus was like those who played "wedding". Sadly, whether the tune and tone was serious or joyous, no one wanted to respond.

In our day and age we see our churches experiencing similar results. We will put on revivals and emphasize the need to repent and get right with God. If that don't work, we will then put on events and promote church as a fun place, or set our sermons and programs in such an alternating manner. The problem, as always, lies in the human heart. Self-sufficient people will say: "I'm too busy and I don't have time" or "I got better things to do". Jesus notes that wisdom is vindicated or justified by her children, meaning that those who are truly the redeemed will come to hear the Word and sing the songs of praise, no matter if there are bells and whistles or not. Point being, self-sufficient people have zero bars of spiritual receptivity due to the fact they "won't". But lets look at a second type of lack of spiritual receptivity...

Self-righteous people can't receive. Luke 7:36-46
We read these words in Luke 7:36-37 "Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume." Two contrasting figures are presented by Luke: a self-righteous man who thought he was right with God and a righteous former-sinner who felt like she did not deserve to be right with God. No doubt, these two are connected to the little parable Jesus tells about the two debtors in Luke 7:40-43. Though both debtors owed disproportionate amounts of money (one owed ten times more than the other), both had not ability to pay the debt back. Yet both were forgiven, with the greater debtor loving the Master the most.  This parable suggests to us that perhaps the sinful woman in the town had been a recent convert to Jesus' ministry. She may had been influenced by John the Baptist's ministry, as suggested by Jesus' references to him in Luke 7:25-29 and the fact that such people like the woman had been converted under John's ministry (see Matthew 21:32). 

Whichever the case regarding this woman's conversion, it must had been near the time of this episode of Jesus entering into Simon's home. The fact this woman was attempting to know his whereabouts suggests that she was looking for a way to thank Jesus. 

Meanwhile Simon evidenced less than love for Jesus. It is hard to tell whether he truly had faith or was being merely religious in out form. The parable that Jesus tells suggests that Simon might had been a convert, however from Simon's actions and attitude of heart, it would seem that his self-rightousness was perhaps the only thing he had going for him. It is afterall the attitude of Simon's heart that gives us the opportunity to see a glimpse of Jesus' deity in the veil of His humanity. He reads Simon's heart and delivers the stinging parable. (Luke 7:40-43) 

Self-righteousness can't receive spiritual truth and self-sufficiency won't receive spiritual truth. Why? Notice the common word in these two thoughts: "self". Self is that principle operating with us that wants what it wants and when it wants. But now lets turn our attention back to the woman once again and see why she could receive spiritual truth. 

A Forgiven and Loving heart is spiritually receptive Luke 7:44-50
As Jesus weaves his way back and forth between addressing Simon and pointing to the example of the woman, we see why this woman exhibited such love. We read in Luke 7:47-50 "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49 Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” 50 And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” 

Again this woman had experience a prior work of God as a result of Jesus' preaching or perhaps upon hearing something about John the Baptist's preaching about Jesus. Either way this woman felt it necessary to break convention and exhibit extragant love. We know from elsewhere in the Gospels (Mt 26:6-13) that her pouring out of perfume would had been the equivalency of a year's wages. This woman honored Jesus beyond what was required - a token of grace. The Pharisees in the house did not even bother to wash Jesus' feet, a failure in even the most basic exercise of hospitality - a sign of self-righteousness. 

The faith of this woman and the love that resulted evidence the prior working of God. She was so firmly persuaded about Jesus Christ. Her spiritual receptivity was off the charts. No matter how many mountains there would be for her to overcome (she still had her past and reputation to contend with), this woman had all five bars of reception when it came to Jesus!

Closing Thoughts:
Today we looked at the subject of levels of spiritual receptivity. Our main point of application was: "Faith receives the things of God and love measure the level of reception." We saw that self-sufficiency won't receive spiritual truth and self-righteousness cannot receive it. Only a heart that has faith issuing forth in love has the ability to retain spiritual receptivity to Jesus Christ and the scriptures. Nothing will be able to keep such people away, neither will any added enticements be necessary to make Jesus and His words more precious than they already are. 

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